I love coral reefs for being exotic, amazingly diverse and often venomous. Maybe it’s because I’m small and I respect small creatures that can build big beautiful things, but I feel like I relate to corals – arguably one of the least relatable animals – on a very deep level. That’s partly why I care so much about their demise. Corals are so sensitive that the slightest change to the temperature or chemistry of the seawater that surrounds them can cause total devastation through coral bleaching, death and reef erosion. Without our help to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and over-fishing, scientists agree that reefs may cease to function as ecological cradles for marine life by the end of this century. Are coral reefs doomed to fade into oblivion or will we allow them to recover and regain their vibrancy?
I hope that the idea of one small person creating such huge, intricately detailed ceramic sculptural installations causes viewers to realize just how important reefs are to me, and to become curious enough to learn more about how the ocean is important to them. I also secretly enjoy feeling like a coral, patiently and methodically constructing large, delicate, stony structures that can change an ecosystem. I use simple tools like chopsticks and paint brushes to sculpt and texture each piece by hand – often poking thousands of holes to mimic the repetitive growth of coral colonies. Individual coral polyps precipitate calcium carbonate from seawater to form stony skeletons that, over time, grow atop one another to compose the vast, complex structures we know as reefs. It therefore feels essential that the medium of my work be ceramic, as calcium carbonate also happens to be a common ingredient in clay and glaze materials. Not only does the chemical structure of my work parallel that of a natural reef, but brittle ceramic anemone tentacles and coral branches break easily if improperly handled, similar to the delicate bodies of living reef organisms.
– Courtney Mattison, Artists Statement
Ocean Life – By James M. Sommerville
Schussele, the first professor in drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was chiefly a genre, history painter and portrait painter, yet his subject matter occasionally reflected Philadelphia’s scientific tradition, as in this watercolor. One of the earliest American submarine illustrations, this picture was executed expressly for lithographic reproduction in a pamphlet of the same title published in Philadelphia in 1859. James M. Sommerville (1825 – 1899), a physician, amateur naturalist, member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, as well as an artist and a trustee of the Pennsylvania Academy, was probably the designer of the watercolor. He collected the specimens, wrote the text of the pamphlet and lithographed the image.
The Scyphomedusa Deepstaria
The scyphomedusa Deepstaria is certainly odd, with its bag-like appearance, and bell that can open more than a meter wide. Speculation on the identity of a mystery blob has become a YouTube sensation, sparking heated and entertaining debates over its identity. That video of Deepstaria reticulum (described by Larson, et al., in 1988) looks especially unusual because the medusa is being blown around by the thrusters of the Remotely Operated Vehicle, and eventually turns completely inside-out.
The Wave Organ in San Francisco
The Wave Organ in San Francisco, is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture located on a jetty at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, 83 Marina Green Dr. The concept was developed by Peter Richards and was installed in collaboration with sculptor and master stone mason George Gonzales. Both men were artists in residence at the Exploratorium in 1986. The inspiration for the piece came from artist Bill Fontana’s recordings made of sounds emanating from a vent pipe of a floating concrete dock in Sydney, Australia.
The Sea Organ – Morske Orgulje
Morske Orgulje (Sea Organ), an architectonic musical instrument built in Zadar, Croatia, and created for playing sound as it is triggered by sea waves that arrive at the coast.
One can think the sea sound it is already a wonderful and rich sonic ecosystem, which is true. However, it is also curious to see how man’s appropriation of the territory from a sonic perspective, affects not only the space as such but also the mental feeling towards it. In this case, the sonic meeting point is a 70-meter space, divided in 10 sections of 5 tubes, tuned into specific musical notes. When the water strikes the system underwater, the tubes are activated, emitting chords and melodies as natural forces act.